There are many statues situated around downtown Singapore
and beyond, which are popular with tourists. Each one represents either something from the Lion City’s past or something aspirational towards the future. Join us for a walking tour of the must-see statues around the Civic District and then over to Gardens by the Bay
Sitting across from Marina Bay Sands is perhaps the most recognisable of all the statues: Merlion, a part-lion, part-fish mythical creature that’s become the national symbol of Singapore. The first half of the name, ‘Mer’, means sea, because the island-nation was once known by its Javanese name, Temasek, or ‘Sea Town’. Later, the name changed to Singapura, meaning ‘Lion City’, which explains why the mascot has the head of the majestic creature. There are several merlions across the city, including a 37-metre (121-ft) tall statue on Sentosa island, which visitors can actually go inside.
Merlion: the symbol of Singapore | © Nicola Sap De Mitri/Flickr
Sentosa Merlion: a statue you can actually explore inside | © Haakon S. Krohn/WikiCommons
Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles
Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles was the founding father of modern-day Singapore. A British statesman, he played a significant role in establishing schools, churches, roads and other infrastructure soon after his landing in 1819. The original was sculpted in bronze by Thomas Woolner and installed in 1887 at the Padang, although it’s since been relocated several times and currently sits near the Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall. In 1972, a second figure was cast in polymarble to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Singapore’s founding. This pristine, white statue sits at what is said to be Raffles’ original landing site.
A popular meeting point at the edge of Boat Quay, the fat, bronze Bird statue is by famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Erected in 1990, it’s meant to represent the power of optimism and enhance the joy of living. Botero has several other designs around the island, including the Dancing Nude Couple and the Reclining Woman at the St Regis Singapore hotel.
British artist Marc Quinn unveiled Planet in 2013 as one of many art installations at the newly opened Gardens by the Bay. The sculpture is somewhat shocking to viewers, not because of its content – it is, after all, a sleeping baby – but because of its sheer size and the fact that it appears to float several feet off the ground. Upon closer inspection, this seven-tonne, 10-metre-long figure is actually resting on the child’s small forearm. Quinn explains: ‘To me, Planet is a paradox – hugely heavy, yet the bronze appears weightless; overwhelmingly big, yet also an image of vulnerability. It is both a reflection of ourselves and the earth upon which we live.’
Part of the People of the River series by Chong Fah Cheong, First Generation is located right next to the Cavenagh Bridge. It depicts five boys laughing, jumping and playfully pushing each other into the river, something that was once commonplace when the Singapore River was bustling with trade. Of course, swimming in the river is illegal now, but the statue harkens back to simpler days in the Lion City.
First Generation | © William Cho/Flickr